In the lead up to an election political misinformation and disinformation are widespread online. What advice can we give young people – soon to be voters – about accessing reliable information? These tips will help equip them – and all of us – to make informed decisions.
- Find the source
Don’t trust something just because it came via a friend or lots of people are talking about it. Find out where it came from. No source? Be sceptical!
- Run a background check
Unfamiliar source? Do a background check by searching up one or all of the following:
– Name of website / organisation / author + About
– Name of website / organisation / author + Wikipedia
– Search for the website / organisation / author using the ‘News’ tab
- Read the story – to the end
Does the headline match the content? Is it exaggerated or taken out of context? Headlines are often overstated to get more clicks. Read or watch the story/video all the way through for a fuller picture.
- Check the facts
Add the words “fact check” to a keyword search to see if any reputable fact-checking organisations have already checked a story. Full Fact, BBC Reality Check, Channel 4 FactCheck and Snopes use robust checking processes.
- Watch your emotions
What gets the most reactions, comments and shares online? It’s often posts that trigger outrage – regardless of whether or not they are true. Watch out for alarming words, emotive language or name-calling. Pause before you share that blood-boiling post. Ask yourself: who is trying to make me feel this way – and why?
- Get the other side(s) of the story
Compare how the same story is reported by media with different political leanings – and those that strive for impartiality. You’ll see how things can be framed in various ways, as well as gaining a wider perspective.
- Avoid biased sources
Extreme viewpoints tend to be misleading. A Canadian study found that “strong partisans” across the political spectrum gave twice as many factually incorrect answers about current events as non-partisans.
- More is not always better
Don’t read/view indiscriminately, be discerning in your media choices. Consuming news regardless of the source makes people more susceptible to being misinformed.
- Know your misleading media
Deceptive media isn’t always factually incorrect, sometimes it paints a slanted picture or makes a false connection. Use Mediabiasfactcheck.org or NewsGuardQuickly to identify bias, satire, pseudoscience and other misleading sources.
- Reverse image search
Most misleading images online are NOT digitally doctored or deep fakes: they are real images with false captions. Use TinEye or Google reverse image search to find the original context.
- Make deliberate media choices
Don’t rely on what shows up in your feed – algorithms prioritise what’s popular over what’s accurate. Find and follow sources that value fairness and accuracy, those genuinely trying to get to the truth.
Photo by Element5 Digital from Pexels.